What do you get when you put eight WWE legends in Harpo Marx’s mansion for a reality show?
Ever since its debut, the “Legends’ House” has consistently been the most popular original show on WWE Network. Viewers tuned in each week to see what Gene Okerlund, Hillbilly Jim, Howard Finkel, Jimmy Hart, Roddy Piper, Pat Patterson, Tony Atlas and Hacksaw Jim Duggan were going to do or say next.
Ironic that the ‘House’ of the WWE legends’ zaniness is Marx’s mansion as the late entertainer was a member of the legendary comedic team the Marx Brothers (1905-1949).
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When Duggan was approached about the concept to appear with his wrestling ‘brothers,’ he was excited to be part of it. Nevertheless, he had some reservations, too.
“I have two young daughters,” Duggan said during an interview leading to the show’s reunion special 8 p.m. EST Thursday, June 19 on WWE Network.
“One was in high school at the time. So it was hard being gone for almost five weeks. Professionally, it was really exciting to be part of it. There are only eight guys, and everyone wanted to be in there. Guys like Sgt. Slaughter, Jake The Snake Roberts and Ted DiBiase. So to be one of those eight guys was an honor.”
The patriotic WWE Hall of Famer had some fun watching the show unfold like everyone else as the series progressed.
“We had about five camera crews following us around,” Duggan said. “They have hidden cameras and stationary cameras. They had a confessional where we can go and talk. They had a whole bunch of video they could have shown. It was interesting to see how they put it together and what made the cut and what didn’t make the cut.”
When you have a group of old school performers, it can be hard for them to show a personal or vulnerable side to their colleagues. They never wanted to show weakness. However, this show became a bonding experience.
“I know when we got there we had to have a roommate,” Duggan said. “Well, I haven’t had a roommate since college. Who am I going to room with? They were like, ‘Piper’. Oh my gosh, I knew Piper a little bit, but I didn’t know him too well. Over that length of time we became best friends. Our families are friends now. Our daughters are friends. We really hit it off. On the other hand Tony Atlas and I, we almost had a fistfight. So it ran the whole gamut of emotions. That’s for sure.”
The two have known each other for 25 to 30 years, and Duggan believes there has always been hostility.
“It’s always been in a dressing room situation,” he said. “You will see him an hour at his end of the room and my end of the room. So no real confrontation, but when you take eight Type A personalities and put them in the house together there is going to be a little fireworks. Actually Tony had problems with everybody. He was a pain in the butt…Even on the reunion show we even have some sparks flying. That’s the relationship that Tony and I have. I don’t know if it’s Tony doing the Mr. USA and me chanting USA or what exactly it is. We just don’t seem to get along.”
Looking back at this season the legends participated in a number of activities including Zumba, bowling, art and even dancing on stage with Chippendales entertainers in Las Vegas. However, one of the most memorable outings for the cast of characters was when they found out about the world of live-action role play (LARP).
“Of course we went to this costume shop and were able to pick out whatever costume we wanted,” Duggan said. “It was a lot of fun. We went out in the middle of the desert, and all of a sudden, these 40 guys run down this hill with their faces painted and their gear chanting. It was actually kind of intimidating, even though we knew it was all for show. Of course, when they all charged down the hill toward us I knew to stay away from Piper because I knew 90 percent of them were going to go after Piper.”
The “Legends’ House” not only gave fans a chance to see some of their favorites in a different light, but introduced a new audience to these greats.
“Their fathers may have watched us wrestle when they were small kids, but they got this experience,” Duggan said. “They see we are family men. We have problems like anybody else. We have excitement and disappointment like anyone else. I think that was neat to see with the eight guys in that situation outside the ring.”
For Duggan, it was hard during some points to watch with his family after he got emotional. Especially, toward the end when he made the revelation about losing his first wife after a major car accident.
“I’m a silly guy,” Duggan said. “My wife and daughters, they agree that’s just the way I am. When we are in the costume shop I put on a big pair of pink bunny ears jumping around. I like to have fun. I like to laugh. I think that is why Piper and I hit it off so well. I think as the story went on, especially near the end, it got pretty emotional. My family knows that story I very seldom talk about. It shows just how close we became to share that with my seven guys, but the WWE Universe.
“…A lot of folks who watch wrestling or appreciate wrestling can watch that show and appreciate the raw emotion. The guys really opened up. Jimmy Hart, myself and Pat. I mean that was a known secret in the wrestling world, but for Pat to come out on camera I think was a huge moment for him. Everyone really poured their soul out. We all got pretty close during that period of time.”
Despite the rollercoaster ride of emotions during his stay at the “Legends’ House,” Duggan would do it again.
“It was a gorgeous place,” he said. “The only hard part was being away from your family. You had no cell phone, no TV, no internet, no computer. They force us to interact. I enjoyed the experience. I think everybody did. I think Pat and Gene said they wouldn’t do it again. Piper and I, I think we are ready to room together again.”
I think fans wouldn’t mind watching more of that ‘bromance.’ Duggan would keep almost everything pretty much the same.
“I would like to see an animal in there,” he said. “Some type of cat or dog to interact with. There is nothing to pet except Piper in the whole place. I enjoy pets and animals. I missed having one around. Of course, I would say keep Tony out of there. At the same time, you know he added a little spark that wouldn’t have been there if everybody had all got along. So that made for good TV. So would pretty much keep it the way it was.”
As for other new cast members he thinks Roberts and DiBiase would be at the top of list for tenants. Before this edition of “Legends’ House” concludes there is one more stop that unites the group.
“I think it follows how the show went,” Duggan said. “Everybody was kind of close. Then Tony Atlas comes out there and is a pain in the butt. Everybody was trying to sugarcoat it saying Tony wasn’t that bad. I finally said, ‘BS, Tony was bad.’ Of course, then the sparks start flying and off we go.”
• Watch the “Legends’ House” reunion 8 p.m. EST Thursday, June 19 on WWE Network. That and the rest of the season are also available on the network. Visitwww.wwe.com
• Follow Hacksaw Jim Duggan on Twitter @OfficialHacksaw.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.